At the time of this writing, schools across the country, and around the world, are shut down. As we attempt to gain control of a pandemic, parents suddenly find themselves at home with the kids all day.
For parents who typically homeschool, this really isn’t much of a problem.
For parents whose lives have been turned upside down, however, a whole variety of new stressors are front and center.
Instead of focusing on the bad news, today let’s look at some of the unexpected opportunities of finding yourself at home with the kids all day.
1) Mind Control
Did I get your attention with that one? No, we’re not going to brainwash our kids. We’re going to learn how to take control of how our own minds think about difficult situations. While this is something we can easily teach to our kids, let’s first start with ourselves so we can set the example.
From the moment your child is born, your amygdala is on high alert. It reminds you, constantly, that your main job as a parent is to protect your child. Unfortunately this means that parents are literally hard-wired to worry.
Why do I say unfortunately? Because there’s a big difference between the steps we take to protect children and the senseless worry we feel on a regular basis.
Worry serves no valuable purpose. Yes, it may drive us to take action, but we CAN take action without the unnecessary stress of worrying about our uncertain future.
During times of uncertainty, parents take extra care to project calm. Regardless of how they feel on the inside, they let the kids know, “All is well.”
Sometimes this requires a fair amount of pretending. Easier said than done when you find yourself at home with the kids all day, every day.
I propose an enormous opportunity here: to learn not just to pretend to be calm but to actually feel calm.
How do we feel calm in a crisis? We consciously and deliberately change what we think about it. I’ll use myself as an example. I happen to have multiple underlying health conditions, which puts me at higher risk. Yes, I take important steps to protect myself. My family does the same.
I could easily think, and you certainly wouldn’t judge me for it, “I’m scared about what might happen.” But let me ask you a serious question. Why would I choose to think that? What purpose does that serve? Really, does it help?
The answer is no. Since I, just like you, have total control of what I think, let’s reframe it.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I’m okay with that. The only time I’m not okay with that is when I choose to expect the worst. Why would I choose to think about the worst-case scenario when I can just as easily choose to believe all will be well?
Whether it will be or won’t be is not up to me. It’s not even the point. The point is, I don’t have to stockpile ridiculous amounts of toilet paper in order to feel a sense of control. What I do have control of, what is entirely up to me, is how I choose to think and feel. I choose to feel calm and optimistic.
What do you choose?
2) Unexpected Freedom
I recently wrote about the freedom of learning differences. At the time I didn’t anticipate that it would be so fitting for this particular situation. Unexpected opportunity indeed! If you don’t believe that you can feel a sense of freedom when you’re at home with the kids all day, I encourage you to read The Freedom of Learning Differences. Even if your child doesn’t experience learning difficulties, the benefits still apply.
3) A Pressure-Free Way to Learn Together
During the typical school year, some parents really wish they could help their struggling learners improve their learning abilities at home. They may not know exactly how to help or where to begin. They may even feel intimidated by the prospect of strengthening a few learning skills or even taking the bold leap into homeschooling.
With schools closed, many students are breathing a sigh of relief. Not because the world appears to be off its axis at the moment, but because the daily academic pressure has been lifted. This is especially true for our kids with learning differences.
I fully support allowing kids to take a long brain break. And even though learning may not be top of mind right now, when you’re ready, you actually have the perfect opportunity to discover just how easy it is to learn together in a pressure-free way.
In The Freedom of Learning Differences I mentioned some simple ways that you can do that. The even better news about this unusual time is that more opportunities continue to open up.
Here are some examples, but I’m sure you can find plenty more.
Online Learning Resources
Digital access to museums around the world like the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and thousands more.
Free digital shows from New York’s Metropolitan Opera 7:30p.m every night (March 16 – March 22, 2020).
Find charter school-approved curriculum from Other Goose, free for 3 weeks.
In California, PBS developed a statewide home learning resource, airing educational programs specifically for kids in grades Pre-K through 12 from 6AM-6PM (accessible while campuses are closed). Or try PBS Kids Videos for educational videos and a livestream of the PBS Kids channel (free with no subscription).
Learn a language for free at Duolingo.
Choose your favorite topic to learn about at TED-ED.
Find a digital library of science and social studies material at Kids Discover Online.
Learn something new for free at Khan Academy.
BrainPop offers kid-friendly educational videos (and free access during school closures).
Try Scholastic for projects and at-home learning, independently or together.
Varsity Tutors offers free and paid online instruction. Check out their Virtual School Day and Virtual Summer Camps.
Of course, let’s not forget all of the free skill-building resources you have access to inside The Free Printables Collection here at Inner Pieces Gallery.
The key to stress-free learning, of course, is to avoid unnecessary expectations. Let learning be fun. Play games together. Have discussions about what your child loves, or even develop new interests. Watch public television. Watch nature documentaries. Listen to intriguing podcasts. Listen to audio books together. Keep those brain gears turning when the kids are home, and let any unnecessary worry about benchmarks or reading levels or academic performance go. Be explorers together, and enjoy this time of opportunity.
Want to go even further to help struggling learners? Learn about online parent training here.